A peloton during the 2012 Butra Heidelberg Cement Tour de Brunei. Picture: BT/Yusri Adanan
Top national cyclist Muhammad Raihaan Abd Aziz has denied taking any banned substances; he put the blame on "unfamiliar" supplements.
He has been found positive for doping and handed a two-year ban by the Brunei Darussalam Anti-Doping Committee (BDADC) Disciplinary Panel running from January 25, 2014 - January 24, 2016.
The Department of Youth and Sports said this in a press release through BDADC yesterday.
Raihaan's sample reportedly returned with the presence of "S1. 1A Exogenous AAS/bolden one and its metabolites 5b-androst-1-en-17b-ol-3-onc (Anabolic Steroid)".
The two-year ban makes Raihaan ineligible to participate in any capacity in a competition or sports activity (other than authorised anti-doping education or rehabilitation programmes).
Raihaan, who has been the Sultanate's most successful cyclist for years, pleaded his innocence to The Brunei Times yesterday.
"I just feel really bad.
"It's a nightmare for me (since I tested positive) up till now," said Raihaan yesterday.
"I really don't know what I took.
"It was my mistake that I bought supplements which I'm unfamiliar with and it was my fault for not consulting coach (Yafiz Jamaludin) before buying them.
"My friends and family know what I'm like and put their trust in me.
"I hope that people will not think negatively about me because it was an honest mistake.
"Two years is a long time... I'm looking to appeal in hopes of getting a reduced ban," said the Tutong native.
The 25-year-old suffered a crash in Stage 4 of the Langkawi International Mountain Bike Challenge (LIMBC) back in October last year.
He sustained an injury to his right leg as a result and resorted to getting supplements in the hope of recovering quickly ahead of the 27th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Myanmar.
BDADC then conducted an 'out-of-competition' doping control test organised by the Southeast Asia Regional Anti-Doping Organisation (SEARADO), through BDADC, on 10 random athletes ahead of the biennial Games.
"I needed fast recovery for training as the SEA Games were fast approaching at that time.
"I took the (doping) test four to five times last year and was shocked to have tested positive," said Raihaan.
He was also told by the BDADC not to compete after testing positive for his A-sample.
Raihaan failed to comply and travelled to Sabah to compete at the 1st Kota Kinabalu Century Cycling Race in November, where he finished on top of the podium of the MTB Men's Open Elite.
He apologised and blamed himself for not making the right decisions at that time.
"I felt really depressed and didn't know what to do," he said.
"I was really frustrated and tried to keep myself busy.
"I went to compete (in KK) to release stress.
"But it was my mistake again for not knowing the regulations," he added.
"I thought that I could compete since it wasn't a UCI (International Cycling Union) event.
"It may be a small event but I apologise for going to compete," concluded Raihaan in the telephone interview.